The suffering caused by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center go beyond the tragic loss of lives that occurred on that day. While more than 2,600 were killed when the planes struck the WTC, many more died or have serious illnesses and conditions caused by the toxic dust plume and debris left as the towers collapsed.
As of March 2021, 80,745 first responders and 29,453 survivors—more than 110,000 people— were enrolled in the WTC Health Program. While that number includes those injured in the attack on the Pentagon, the greatest numbers of deaths, injuries, and illnesses happened at Ground Zero and the disaster area in and around New York City.
What is the 9/11 exposure zone?
The exposure zone refers to “ground zero” and the area surrounding the World Trade Center in the aftermath of its destruction in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This includes “the area in Manhattan south of the line that runs along Canal Street from the Hudson River to the intersection of Canal Street and East Broadway, north on East Broadway to Clinton Street, and east on Clinton Street to the East River; and any area related to or along the routes of debris removal, such as barges and Fresh Kills landfill.”
It is also important to understand the difference between the zone for the WTC Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). While both programs are important, they have unique purposes and define the “exposure zone” in slightly different ways:
- The WTC Health Program is a federal program under the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This program serves by providing “no-cost medical monitoring and treatment for certified WTC-related health conditions to those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.” This includes responders such as those in the NYFD or NYPD; workers or volunteers who provided rescue, recovery, debris cleanup, and related support services; and those who worked, resided, went to school or were in adult- or child-care in the specified area on 9/11. The WTC Health Program’s defined area is “the area of Manhattan south of Houston Street and any block of Brooklyn that is within a 1.5-mile radius of the former World Trade Center site.” This is referred to as the NYC Disaster Area.
- As of July 2019, the VCF became a permanently funded program in July 2019 as the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.” This ensures compensation for victims and survivors of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash in Shanksville, PA. for legitimate claims with full documentation filed by October 1, 2090. In order to receive compensation, a claimant must be certified by the WTC Health Program as having a 9/11-related illness or medical condition. Financial compensation is also available to the families/Personal Representatives of those who were killed in the attacks or subsequently died from a certified 9/11 condition or illness. VCF exposure zone time frame
VCF benefits are available to victims and survivors of 9/11 under certain circumstances, including time within the exposure zone. The law states that a person must have:
- Died as a direct result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes or rescue, recovery, or debris removal in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; or
- Been present at a September 11th crash site in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and suffered physical harm as a direct result of the crashes or the rescue, recovery, and debris removal efforts
The required extent of exposure to qualify
The immediate aftermath means that a claimant was in the exposure zone during the period from September 11, 2001, through May 30, 2002.
The sufficiency of exposure depends on individual circumstances—including location, nature of work, date of arrival on site, and the duration of presence. A minimum number of hours present for cancer to develop is four hours, or being directly in the dust cloud for any length of time.
Providing proof of presence in the exposure zone
In order to be eligible for VCF compensation, a claimant (or the Personal Representative representing a deceased victim) must provide proof of presence in the NYC exposure zone. This includes, but is not limited to, first responders, out-of-state responders, construction workers and volunteers who helped clean up debris, residents, students, workers and those attending adult care or day care programs.
Documents that help establish proof of presence
A valid VCF 9/11 claim will require at least two of the following written proof-of-presence documents:
- Employer records confirming presence—such as a letter from the employer confirming work at the site, an official personnel roster and site credentials confirming work at the site, workers’ injury reports (documenting injury at the site), or a pay stub showing dates of work and location at the site.
- Proof of residence in the area during the relevant time period—such as rent or mortgage receipts, utility bills and proof that the victim was physically present at the site between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002. A sworn statement from a witness who can attest to the claimant’s presence at the residence is sufficient.
- Any contemporaneous document that shows the victim’s location at the site—such as orders, instructions, confirmation of tasks performed, medical records (documenting treatment as a result of injury that occurred at the site), or school or day care records confirming enrollment or attendance during the period.
- Sworn and notarized affidavits (or unsworn statements complying with 28 U.S.C. 1746) regarding the presence of the victim from persons who can attest to the victim’s presence at a 9/11 crash site.
Contact an experienced VCF compensation attorney at Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP today
Our attorneys bring deep knowledge, skill, and compassion in helping victims of the WTC terrorist attacks get compensation and justice for their injuries, illnesses, and medical conditions. If you are a survivor, family member, or Personal Representative of a 9/11 victim, please call 212-983-3000 or email our office to schedule a free consultation.